Thursday 20 April 2023

Andersson signs multi-year deal with CE Dealer Team.

Rallycross star Klara Andersson has been rewarded for her impressive rookie season in the FIA World Rallycross Championship with a multi-year contract at the Construction Equipment Dealer Team.

Andersson joined the World RX grid in Hell, Norway last summer – immediately turning heads as she advanced to the final on her debut. She went on to finish ahead of experienced team-mate Niclas Grönholm – seven times an event-winner in the series.

Barely two months later, the talented Swede made history by becoming the first female driver ever to ascend the podium in rallycross’ top flight when she placed third at Montalegre in Portugal. She then capped her maiden campaign by coming within an ace of defeating multiple world champion Johan Kristoffersson in the pair’s progression race at Germany’s Nürburgring.

Klara continued her impressive form winning the RX150 Rallycross round at Lydden Hill last weekend. Having penned a new deal, the Swedish Superstar is aiming to accelerate her progression in the second season of World RX’s ground-breaking new electric era in 2023, when she will join forces with Grönholm once again.

“Chances like these are a one-in-a million opportunity, and I am beyond grateful for the team’s belief in me as a driver. I’m super-excited to see what we can achieve together in the future," she said.

“Starting my World RX career with CE Dealer Team last year was amazing, and to continue with them for 2023 and beyond is really inspiring for me as a young driver. I’m very happy to keep racing with my team-mate Niclas – we work really well together. Now I’ve done my rookie year and I’ve learned so much, it’s time for the next step forward.”

Team Manager Jussi Pinomäki has high hopes for what Andersson can accomplish over the coming years with the team.

“We are delighted to have Klara on-board with us in a long-term set-up after a really impressive first World RX season,” he said. “No matter who you are, your debut season in an FIA World Championship is a baptism of fire, but Klara handled it like a driver with considerably more experience than she has, taking leaps forward in her personal development throughout the year. We look forward to a thrilling journey ahead, challenging the boundaries and norms of motorsport together.”

Tuesday 18 April 2023

EXCLUSIVE: “It wasn’t easy” after being dropped by Red Bull, but “DTM drive was the best thing to happen” as “I quickly overcame my frustration” and “had fun racing again” - Da Costa.

PHOTO CREDIT: TAG Heuer Porsche.
AUTHOR: Junaid Samodien

Success in life is not dished out, it's earned! But how you achieve that success is quite a complex task for everyone, including elite athletes who encounter and face many highs and lows throughout their careers. With good quality coaching and training (both mentally and physically) each individual or sportsman will have the necessary tools to overcome any obstacle and push through to succeed.  

Antonio Felix Da Costa is one such example, of overcoming a potential career-altering moment, and still persevering despite adversity coming through to succeed and enjoy racing once more. 

If we rewind a few years, da Costa’s motorsport career could have been a lot different. In 2008, the Portuguese star competed in Formula Renault, and a year later, he won the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Championship. As a reward, he was given a test drive with Formula One team, Sahara Force India at the 2010 young drivers’ test where he placed third on the timing sheets. 

With a blossoming career, the Portuguese driver competed in GP3 Series, Formula Three Cup, and the Macau Grand Prix with the Carlin Motorsport team, and soon after was signed to the Red Bull junior driver programme headed by Dr. Helmut Marko. 

Having joined a prestigious junior driver programme, da Costa took part in Formula One test sessions with Red Bull Racing from 2012-13, alongside his regular racing programme. 

In 2013, he finished third place in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship. That year, he was informed that his future was secure with Red Bull and that he would make the step into Formula One with Scuderia Toro Rosso, but that never materialized. The seat instead went to GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat. 

Despite having his dreams dashed right in front of his very eyes, da Costa found a home in the DTM championship in 2014 with BMW, and that same year, he joined the all-electric Formula E Championship with Amlin Aguri. 

Despite the blows, he got back up and fought to succeed, as Vince Lombardi Jr. once said: “It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.” To this day, the 31-year-old driver competes in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship. 

2022 FIA WEC LMP2 CHAMPIONS - Will Stevens, Roberto González, and Antonio Felix Da Costa (right).
PHOTO CREDIT: Antonio Felix Da Costa. 
With a junior championship, and two FIA world titles to his record, Antonio Felix da Costa has a wealth of experience when it comes to dealing with all sorts of highs and lows, but as we know for athletes mental strength is one of the most important elements that goes hand-in-hand with training. 

Some may argue that racing drivers can’t be classified as an athlete, but they are wrong! Why? Simply, because driving a car competitively at high speeds takes a tremendous toll on the human body and mind. These drivers are required to be physically fit, and mentally strong, as well as have the ability to make decisions within split seconds whilst driving. But, how important is the mental strength of a driver? 

“Very, very important,” Antonio Felix da Costa told Slipstream SA. “Confidence is a big part of our performance once we're in the car. And it's easy for it to be shut down sometimes with results or maybe not having the right people around you or just being on a wave of bad results.”

“Now that I'm a little bit older, a bit more experienced, I've been through some bad slumps many, many times. And, I still worry, of course, because I don't like being in a wave of bad results, but I have enough experience and knowledge, and I work with a mental coach back home. I always kind of find my way back. And so yeah, it's actually fun, really fun part of the process when you're struggling and you come back,” he said.

In life, having a dream versus achieving it is a very difficult task, but many accomplish them with hard work and perseverance. Having had a successful junior career, as previously mentioned, and being drafted into the Red Bull junior drivers programme, Antonio could have been Portugal’s sixth Formula 1 driver behind Tiago Monteiro, but unfortunately, he received a phone call from Dr. Helmut Marko in October 2013 informing him that he will not progress to Formula 1 in 2014.

It’s never easy having your dreams dashed over the phone but dealing with that disappointment is what defines great sportsmen and women. 

“It wasn't easy, of course, because obviously not only myself but a lot of fans, family, friends, everyone was kind of thinking that it was a sure thing that I was going to end up in Formula One, and things happened the way they did. And so, obviously, it was already tough on me. But having seen everyone disappointed and sad as well, it's a bit of extra weight on you,” the Portuguese driver explained.

“But I must say, going to DTM was the best thing that happened to me, and becoming a factory driver there. I quickly overcame my frustration and I started having fun racing cars again and that helped obviously.” 

In our current day and age, we see drivers hopping from championship to championship where possible, for example, Formula E to the World Endurance Championship, but is it challenging to adapt or does it come with relative ease thanks to experience? 

“I think experience is part of it,” da Costa said. “But yeah, you know, just driving loads of different cars all the time opens your mindset and it’s actually something that I really like doing.”

Da Costa racing his TAG Heuer Porsche in Cape Town.
PHOTO CREDIT: TAG Heuer Porsche.
It is often said that once the helmet goes on a driver goes into their own zone. Friendships become rivalries, and the beast is unleashed. But, do drivers think of anything specifically when climbing onboard their cars, or when stationary on the grid moments before the start? 

“You think about different things, but I have no problems mixing things up. Once the helmet goes on we are rivals,” he explained.

da Costa believes that mutual respect is important regardless of fierce and competitive rivalries, he says: “If you have respect each other, then you just win or lose. But you need to be a good winner and a good loser. And that's it! I'm able to go for golfing sessions or lunches with these guys (the Formula E drivers). Like, just yesterday [before the Cape Town E-Prix weekend], I had lunch with Nick [Cassidy] and Jean-Eric [Vergne], and I had the great pleasure of beating Nick at golfing (which is a lie), but when the helmet goes we are rivals.” 

Antonio Felix da Costa took his first victory with Porsche TAG in Cape Town after an extraordinary drive from 11th on the grid that included two astounding high-speed overtakes at the tight turn eight. And, after a fourth-place finish last time out in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he now finds himself 28 points off the championship lead in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship with ten rounds remaining.

Monday 17 April 2023

Loeb "can't wait" to make World RX return in Lancia Delta.

PHOTO CREDIT: Special ONE Racing
Nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb will make a full-time return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship this year behind the wheel of a Lancia Delta Evo-e RX for Special ONE Racing.

Rallycross fans will fondly remember Loeb’s three seasons spent competing in World RX in a Peugeot 208 WRX from 2016 to 2018 – yielding two victories and 15 podium finishes from 36 outings. 

Five years on from his rallycross departure, the Frenchman is back, and he will join forces with Special ONE founder Guerlain Chicherit"I’m from a generation that was brought up seeing wins by Lancia Deltas in rallying, so naturally I have a weakness for this car," he said.

"But when Guerlain spoke to me the first time about tackling a rallycross season with it, I thought he was mad! Then I tried the car last December and was immediately won over by its dynamic qualities. I have great faith in this project and I can’t wait to champion it on tracks around the world."

"I’m very motivated for the challenge, and I think rallycross is the ideal discipline for electrification because we have a lot of power and the races are short. These cars are exciting to drive, and World RX is the perfect platform to promote their evolution. The show on-track is just amazing, with great fights and even more spectacular action than before, and now we have the opportunity to attract a whole new generation of fans."

PHOTO CREDIT: Special ONE Racing
As a new player in the mobility landscape, Special ONE’s aim is to manufacture and distribute exclusive, eco-friendly retrofits of classic sports vehicles, with the team’s brace of new-generation, 500kW (680bhp) electric rallycross beasts – designed and built by GCK Performance.

Special ONE Racing has committed to run its two Delta Evo-e RXs in World RX for at least three seasons.

The team founder, and four-time Free Skiing World Champion Guerlain Chicherit, gave the Lancia a promising debut at the 2022 World RX season finale at Germany’s Nürburgring, but this year, he aims to make history!

"It’s a dream of mine to be able to align two cars from my own brand with World RX, one of which is entrusted to a sporting legend," he said. "The scene is set to see Special ONE Racing become a top-notch team. From this season, we’ll have the opportunity to make history, becoming the first to have a retrofitted car win a World Championship event. Let’s get going!"

The first of nine rounds in the 2023 FIA World RX season is set to take place on 03 and 04 June in Montalegre, Portugal.

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Grönholm pens new multi-year extension with CE Dealer Team.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
Niclas Grönholm has committed his future to the Construction Equipment Dealer Team after signing a multi-year contract extension. 

The Finn joined the Construction Equipment Dealer Team last year after a lengthy spell with family team GRX Taneco, where he claimed seven podium finishes and six victories.

Grönholm has been a World RX front-runner since 2019 – a year where he could have almost certainly been in the title fight, but unfortunately a bout of appendicitis ruled him out of two events.

Last year, he finished third in the drivers' standings, claiming one victory and a total of four podium finishes, but this year, the Finn is aiming to make further progress. 

“I’m thrilled to get continued trust to move forward in our groundbreaking World RX journey together, which really motivates me ahead of the challenges to come,” Grönholm said.

“While we had a strong first season for the team, I’m never satisfied until we are at the very top – and that’s just what we have worked very hard for throughout the winter. The opposition will no doubt be just as tough this season, but we continue to work in earnest to achieve our goals. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of my PWR RX1e!”

CE Dealer Team debuted in World RX in 2022, placing third in the Teams’ standings. In retaining Niclas, the Swedish squad reinforces its long-term commitment to competing at the international pinnacle of sport and the FIA World Rallycross Championship.

“We reached our initial goals for the first season by winning races, finishing in the top three overall and highlighting a more diverse and sustainable motorsport world,” Team Manager, Jussi Pinomäki said, “but we are far from satisfied.

“We will continue to push the envelope, both on and off-track. The future is electric, inclusive and exciting – something we will continue to work hard for. And our long-term goal of challenging for the FIA World Rallycross Championship titles has not changed.”

Niclas' team-mate will be announced later this week.